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Among the many compelling and challenging essays in Anne-Marie Willis’ Design Philosophy Reader is Mahmoud Keshavarz’s exploration of the idea of humanitarianism, and how designers’ best intentions can be compromised.

 

“As humanitarian design also often comes from a Western-oriented understanding of design as a task of problem-solving, it is completely blind to how, in practice, design as a strong material force that articulates as well as manipulates the possibilities of situations has caused the event or ‘the crisis’ humanitarians in fact try to address. As designers Helder Pereira and Coral Gillett write in the anthology Design in the Borderlands, what is missing from the debate over the necessity or problematic of humanitarian design is “a fundamental rethinking of the structural conditions that create the ‘need’ for humanitarian design responses in the first place.”

‘The Violence of Humanitarian Design’, Mahmoud Keshavarz. An extract from Design-Politics: An Inquiry into Passports, Camps and Borders’ Doctoral Dissertation in Interaction Design, Dissertation Series: New Media, Public Spheres and Forms of Expression, Faculty of Culture and Society, School of Arts and Communication, Malmö University, 2016